The British rider finished 10th in a demanding stage 2 and sits 10 seconds off the overall leader, Katusha's Alexander Kristoff. With Tuesday’s individual time trial to come, Stannard has every chance of pulling himself into the overall fight for the race.
Stage 2 from Al Wakra to Al Khor Corniche saw Etixx-QuickStep provide a textbook lesson in echelon racing. They split the field within the opening few kilometres and although the majority of the peloton were able to regain contact, the Belgian squad repeated the feat every time the race was buffered by crosswinds.
Stannard missed the initial split but brought himself back into contention. From there he matched the favourites pedal stroke for pedal stroke.
“I didn’t’ have the best of starts today, to be honest. I was in one of the back groups but I managed to come back with one of the echelons and from there I managed to survive,” he told Cyclingnews.
Stannard is still feeling his way back into racing after an injury hit 2014. He took the biggest win of his career to date with victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. However, a crash in Gent-Wevelgem resulted in a fractured vertebrae and a four-month spell on the sidelines. He returned to racing at the Commonwealth Games but suffered the ignominy of being dropped in the opening corners of the race.
Worse was still to follow, however, with a fall at the Tour of Britain setting him back with a fractured scaphoid.
As a result of those falls Stannard is searching for confidence more than he is form. His ability to hang with the best on the roads Al Khor Corniche, suggest he’s close to his best form but he admits that his rhythm in the bunch is not quite where it should be.
“I cracked a bit at the start when it was full gas and I didn’t enjoy that one bit. Then you’re just slipping back through the groups and before you know it you’re out the back. I saw Etixx go and when I got back they were hammering it again,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I’m not entirely comfortable in the bunch yet after my crashes last year but I’m sure that after this race I’ll be alright. It’s been tough. I missed a whole year’s racing nearly and it’s been hard but I’m back to where I was, I think, and I’ll go from there.
“Last year, I really felt like I’d stepped up and I just want to keep some momentum going. Hopefully that will start once we get into Belgium.”
“When you have two big crashes like that you can be a little nervous in the bunch. You hear a noise or a brush of wheels and you think ‘Jesus Christ’. I’m sure that will settle down after this race.”
Tuesday’s individual time trial of 10.9 kilometres will provide Stannard with perhaps a truer indication of where his form lies. Not only that but it will determine whether he can challenge for the overall honours at this race.
“My time trial legs come out sometimes, don’t they? Hopefully they can come out tomorrow. "ll get on the bike, do my best and then see where I am.”